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Lung and Placenta Stem Cell Studies

Acute Lung Injuries result in lung fibrosis and respiratory insufficiency, the major debilitating diseases affecting millions of people. Irreversibly damaged stem cells of the epithelium can no longer restore it. Fibroblasts - progeny of local and circulating mesenchymal stem cells, replace the epithelium. Fibrosis cripples the fine architecture of lung alveoli and bronchi.  So far, there is no potent cure for the lung fibrosis, except lung transplantation.

Stem and progenitor cell-based therapy is emerging as a new concept for the treatment of various diseases.  The concept of stem cell therapy for lung fibro-proliferative diseases is to regenerate normal lung epithelial structure by transplantation of exogenous or recruitment of endogenous stem/progenitor cells. It is unknown whether circulating stem cells significantly contribute to the lung remodeling following bacterial inflammatory injuries. Engraftment of stem cells occurs only following severe injury. Transformation of engrafted mesenchymal stem cell into the epithelial cell is the key element of the concept.  How to direct the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) into the epithelial cells, but not fibroblasts, in an inflammatory environment? Mechanisms, which direct such a differentiation decision of stem cells, remain largely unknown.

The long-term goal of my laboratory is to elaborate on stem-cell based therapy for acute and chronic lung diseases. We have shown that bone marrow-derived stem cells graft to the lung and transform into epithelial, endothelial cells and fibroblasts, following bacterial pneumonia. Our recent studies conducted in collaboration with Dr. M. Matthay at UCSF demonstrated that MSC-based therapy of Acute Lung Injuries is a novel promising approach, which demonstrates high efficiency in experiments.

Our recent studies of placenta as a novel and potent source of hematopoietic stem cells, conducted in collaboration with Dr. F. Kuypers at CHORI resulted in two pioneering publications which demonstrated, for the first time, that human term placenta is a hematopoietic organ and could serve as an abundant source of hematopoietic stem cells. Our original findings were confirmed by later publications from other institutions and this publication was awarded as best publication of 2009 by the Society of Experimental Medicine and Biology. Investigation of placental stem cells and their therapeutic potential currently is a focus of my laboratory.    

Revised: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 11:32 AM


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